Americans were among the at least 150 injured in the Westgate Mall terrorist attack in Nairobi today, according to a statement from Marie Harf, deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department. So far, at least 39 people have died in the attack, and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said he’s lost some family members in the massacre.
The rampage took place in an upscale area of Nairobi, and is believed to have been orchestrated by extremists who were specifically targeting non-Muslim Kenyans and Western expatriates in the area. The attack is said to have been carried out by five to ten men with AK-47’s and hand grenades, and Somali militant group al-Shabaab took to Twitter to claim responsibility:
“The Mujahideen entered #Westgate Mall today at around noon and are still inside the mall, fighting the #Kenyan Kuffar inside their own turf.”
The al-Shabaab Twitter account has since been suspended, but not before the group tweeted that the attack was retribution for Kenyan forces’ 2011 push into Somalia, and threatened more violence:
“What Kenyans are witnessing at #Westgate is retributive justice for crimes committed by their military.”
In a statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Harf said, “we have reports of American citizens injured in the attack, and the U.S. Embassy is actively reaching out to provide assistance. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment on American citizens at this time.”
Witnesses of the attack said that the gunmen told Muslims to leave the mall before opening fire, and as night fell in Nairobi, hostages remained inside. Army special forces troops are also positioned inside the mall. The Kenyan military has surrounded the building, which sits in the center of the affluent Westlands district, home to upper-class Kenyans, expatriate Westerners – many of whom work for the United Nations.
Image courtesy of Twitter.